“There Will Be Atemi,” by Nev Sagiba

Make no mistake: There will be atemi, dageki, atari…, call them what you will: there are many nuances of striking well worth studying and practicing.

Tatakai or sentou, are terms used to define battle, fight, conflict, struggle and implicit is the concept of clashing or striking.

The aim of crude striking is to effect kirikuzusu (nota bene) or a break of some kind, including that of balance. Strikes alone do not usually succeed in this. Not at first. That’s why repeated blows are usually followed up. Mostly the only break, in the untrained, is in concentration. But that can be enough.

Receiving atemi focuses the properly practised. A moving target, one who knows how to move reduces the effectiveness of atemi. The sting brings to mind present time focus.

In a real situation, there most usually are atemi involved. Atemi is a primal, primate instinct millions of years old. Why? Because it works. If nothing else as an attention getter!

Not all atemi are effective as a finalizer. In fact most of the time atemi are absolutely useless. Watch any brawl. People just won’t stand still. For atemi to be useful as a finalizer you have to be lucky and practice a lot. Or combine them with good jujutsu: aikijutsu. Atemi are better used to lead ki.

There will also be grabs. But not all attacks start with grabs. Grabbing tends to happen especially when the atemi evince some measure of pain.

With practice, you should be able to deduce the rest from that.

It takes no skill whatsoever to lash out and bash. Anyone can. Especially when someone insults, or worse, physically attacks your loved ones.

Bullies learn to use atemi very early. But it is only the fear of pain in their victims that gives a bully his illusory power. Bullies are frightened beings. Bullies live in fear that people will find out the pathetic insignificance and insecurity they believe they are. And so they push their weight around where they think they can get away with it.

Atemi have to be taken into account. As do weapons. But it won’t be long until some goof will come up with a nonsense such as, “there are no atemi in aikido.” Ho, hum. Teach us patience.

Aikido is complete and leaves nothing out. Get that from the outset and you will have no trouble progressing if you train regularly.

Usually there will be a mix of atemi and grabs. Not all atemi is strictly physical. There are verbal atemi and vocal cutting such as kiai. Don’t ask, PRACTICE!

You can’t catch a punch, but you can slap-catch some punches by intercepting correctly. You can more often catch a block and therefore you have to become adept at deploying effective atemi-waza in training.

A slow punch becomes a push and a fast push becomes a strike. This is used to make training safe.

Naturally in real situation, speed will tend to be the predisposition, although slow can be used as a strategy and also conscious stalling (as an aspect of strategic deai) in conjunction with maai. I say “conscious stalling” because unconscious stalling is an opening you don’t want.

There are more than thirty keys disclosed here. See if you can use them to unlock training possibilities.

More later.

Nev Sagiba


  1. …never neglect atemi in techniques, but never be so fixated on them to forget the flow of the technique, either.

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